The Essentials of Passive Solar Home Design

By Isaac Ost
24 July 2018
Passive Solar House

In the process of designing a home, there are a number of strategies that can be implemented to minimize the amount of energy required to meet the demands of those living in the residence.

Passive solar home design embraces this concept and focuses on facilitating the reduction of heating and cooling loads for a household so that the residents of a home can consume less solar energy for these purposes. Any energy usage that can't be slimmed down can then be powered by solar energy.

If you are looking to purchase, design, or renovate a home, understanding passive solar home design will allow you to optimize your residence so that you can minimize your energy consumption and maximize your savings.

What is Passive Solar Home Design?

The purpose of installing a solar panel system at your home is to enable the generation of renewable and clean energy. If you are already going down this path, it makes a lot of sense to plan the design of your home to compliment your solar panel system to further help with these goals.

When planning and designing your passive solar home, you have to take into account the climate, location of your home, and materials being used in its construction. These factors all influence the way in which solar heat interacts with your home.

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Passive homes design for different positioning of the sun in summer and winter (source)

Passive solar heating is the main tenet of this form of home design and has to do with the way your home absorbs heat. The goal for this is to offset your heating and cooling requirements for when you want to use your AC. Here are some of the best ways to do this.

Home Location

The first part of designing a passive solar home is to select the best location for its construction. The only thing that you really need to worry about here is the amount of exposure that the southern side of your home will have to the sun. It should be fully exposed to the sun’s rays to ensure that you are maximizing your homes passive solar heating.

Installation of Windows

Passive solar heating works by allowing light to shine through properly oriented windows. Your windows should face within 30 degrees of true south, which is different from magnetic south (South on a compass) in that it is based only on the position of the sun rather than the magnetic poles.

They should be uncovered between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the seasons where you are heating your home and covered during the months when you are planning to cool your home down.

Thermal Mass Materials

Objects and materials are placed behind these windows to absorb and retain the incoming heat. The materials used in these surfaces and objects are referred to as thermal mass materials due to their ability to effectively absorb and retain heat.

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Some of the best thermal mass materials to use in designing your passive solar home are concrete, brick, stone and tile. Thermal mass materials are added inside of your home so that they can make your home cooler during the hot seasons by absorbing heat from inside your home, while keeping your home warmer during the cold seasons by absorbing heat from the sun’s rays.

Heat Distribution

When planning your passive solar home, you also need to focus on how the heat will be distributed throughout your house. Once the inside of your home starts to heat up from the sun, the heat will disperse to different areas from its source through either conduction, convection, or radiation.

Conduction is when heat moves through something when they are physically touching, convection occurs through air and liquids, and radiation comes from the sunlight or other sources of heat like fires.

Keep all of this in mind when planning how you want heat distributed throughout your home, and make sure to properly insulate your house so that the air does not escape through unwanted areas. Also, the Department of Energy has some great resources for effective heat distribution methods.

Several Ways to Implement a Passive Energy Home

These general guidelines will allow you to gain a solid understanding of how to move forward with your passive solar home. When working with the experts, make sure to communicate your ideas for materials, positioning of objects and surfaces, and how you want the heat distributed.

Passive solar home design is a great way to compliment your solar panel system so that you can realize the full value of clean and renewable energy systems. If you are ready to learn more, you can speak with one of our energy advisors about all of the details!

What's Pick My Solar? We empower our customers to adopt clean energy through transparency and choice. Our free, no-obligation platform provides competing solutions from top providers.

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